There are many theories as to why the NHL has waned in popularity among Americans in the last decade. Some blame the lack of star-power. Others blame the 2004-05 lockout that canceled the entire season.
Another reason could be the expansion of NBA coverage on cable television. Despite being a sport born for Hi-Definition TV, maybe the NHL just can’t compete when several NBA games are available to most casual sports fans on an almost nightly basis.
Whatever the reason, the NHL is now a distant fourth among the major sports in the United States and find itself closer to MMA and MLS than MLB, NFL, and NBA in terms of popularity.
But there is hope in the form of the impending lockout that could cost the NBA the entire 2011-12 season.
The popularity of the NHL did see a minor upswing last season. TV viewership was at its highest in eight years. Those numbers would skyrocket if there are no NBA games to compete against. All of the sudden, the casual fan, the fan biding time until the weekend’s football action and April’s baseball games, will be seeking a release. And that release will be the NHL.
And once the casual sports fan rediscovers the NHL in Hi-Def, they could get hooked like never before.
Of course, any growth in the sport could be wiped out by the NHL’s own work-stoppage in 2012-13. But in the meantime, the NHL’s biggest concern might be getting the casual fan to figure out where to find Versus on their local cable guide.
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